Recreating a New York City set at home in Mexico City is a task we have accomplished on many projects, but locating and establishing the iconic appearance of Brooklyn in the 1990’s was a unique pursuit. With such a recognizable vibe, it had to be perfect.
For the latest Hennessy spot from Droga5, directed by Daniel Wolfe and produced in collaboration with Somesuch, Fuad Abed and Adriana Cebada, we recreated Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to depict the groundbreaking story of Maurice Ashley, the first black chess Grandmaster. Maurice studied chess as a protégé of the Black Bear School, a legendary group of street chess players who amassed fans and onlookers watching their historic chess games in the park.
“It was incredible to be involved in a project like this, with the whole 90’s chess culture in Brooklyn and the Black Bear Chess School. It was something very special to recreate the mood, the characters, and the atmosphere of the period. To have Maurice in Mexico City and overseeing the authenticity of the whole thing was very special to say the least,” Fuad said about the shoot, which took place in downtown Mexico City. Trying to find 90’s Brooklyn and Prospect Park in Mexico City was a big challenge. We looked at 20-30 parks before settling on a corner park in downtown Mexico City (Jardín San Fernando). Our Producer Adriana Cebada and Production Designer Andrew Clarke were key in steering us in the right direction.
“It was as complicated as a shoot could get. It was supposed to have one location exterior shoot, but it turned into three units shooting simultaneously. Thankfully we were under 1st AD David Webb’s strategic mind and had an A-team with us: Andrew Clarke doing the production design and Mexican native Diego Garcia as our DP…it was a great combination.”
All of us at The Lift are super proud of how realistic the spot looks. From wardrobe down to the graffiti, the campaign is a true time capsule. We were even able to cast Fola, a well known 90’s street artist from New York who came to Mexico City and painted the actual graffiti for the shoot to really bring that edgy and artistic New York element to the story.
Droga5 NY’s Associate Director of Film Production Ruben Mercadel spoke to Little Black Book about some of the advantages of shooting in Mexico. “We looked at various countries like South Africa and Brazil but quickly settled on Mexico City, as it’s a great cost-effective production centre with top tier crews and excellent production infrastructure. I had shot there various times over the years, and it’s a great place to shoot. We worked with The Lift as our local Service Company, who were fantastic.”
Check out the spot below, which marks our third collaboration with Daniel, making the director an honorary Mexican!